Politics

Beloved Gabriola Island bald eagle dies from electrocution


The bald eagle, named Junior, is believed to have been electrocuted by a B.C. Hydro wire.

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A young bald eagle raised alongside an adopted hawk and watched by thousands of people all over the world has been electrocuted.

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Junior, as the bird was known to the nearly 4,000 members of the Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society (GROWLS) eagle nest cam Facebook group, has not been seen since Monday night.

Its body was found later that evening by a neighbour who contacted GROWLS director Pam McCartney.

McCartney’s worst fears were confirmed when she saw the dead bird, which showed signs of being electrocuted.

It was “lying lifeless under the hydro wires, under a small transformer and with the noticeable exit burn under his wing,” wrote McCartney on the group’s page on Wednesday. “The moment I saw that sweet young eagle I knew it was our eaglet…”

GROWLS monitors 16 active bald eagle nests on Gabriola Island, including an eagle cam trained over Junior’s nest.

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Junior and his unorthodox blended-bird family was in the spotlight earlier this summer after their nest cam captured one of the parent eagles dropping a baby hawk into the nest.

The hawk, likely meant to be food for Junior’s dinner,  ended up being a family member. It was named Malala, which means survivor.

Junior and Malala’s antics have captured the hearts of bird-lovers around the world. This week, many of them reacted with sadness and outrage over the death of the young raptor.

“You were a very special eagle to so many people,” wrote one member. “I will never forget the wonderful relationship you had with your hawklet sibling. I really enjoyed watching you both.”

Said another: “I had so been hoping that Junior would not have turned into one of the usual statistics. It is most difficult for a young eagle to reach adulthood.”

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Some members of the group have embarked on a campaign urging B.C. Hydro to do more to prevent large birds from getting electrocuted in the future.

McCartney said GROWLS had previously reached out to the hydro company about the wires after another fledgling from that same nest was killed a few years ago.

Junior’s death was a “reminder of how negative human impact affects the wild in the most tragic ways,” she said.

A B.C. Hydro spokeswoman said the Crown corporation was sad to learn about the death of the eagle.

“We will work with GROWLS on Gabriola Island to find out what happened and see what can be done to prevent contacts,” said Susie Rieder.

B.C. Hydro tries to prevent instances of wildlife and birds coming into contact with its infrastructure, which can cause a power outage, said Rieder.

The company builds perches and guards and installs diverters on power lines to reflect light and improve visibility in order to protect eagles from wires and other equipment.

According to Parks Canada, bald eagles are not considered at risk as their populations have recovered from the low numbers in the 60s and 70s.

However, eagles have a high mortality rate. Close to 50 per cent do not survive their first year due to predation and other man-made hazards such as electrocution on power lines, collisions, and lead poisoning.

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan

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